It's that time of year again – school holidays upon us within days and gorgeous hot sunny weather with late afternoon storms gracing the coastline with it's presence on odd days. With the rain a week back, schoolies were cringing with the thought of rearranging their beach plans, but crabbing folk were rubbing their hands together. Big full tides coupled with tomorrow's full moon are two of three top conditions for crabbing. Add to that a touch of rain to flush out the upper reaches, creeks and mangroves and you have the recipe for crabbing success!
The benefits of these big tides and some added rain are plenty – it will give the rivers and estuaries a great flush out, often bringing jews, jacks, cod, crabs and even some of the bigger flathead out of hiding from up river. The flushing effect is an ideal time for crabbing. Crabs caught during months with the letter 'r' (e.g. December) tend to be much fuller than those caught during the winter months. This is generally due to the belief that mud crabs hide in their holes during winter and malt their shell. They tend to remain empty during these months until they get a chance to grow into their new larger shell. Partially full crabs tend to have a greenish ting to their shells and full crabs have a darker more browny-blue colour. The best way to tell how full a buck is, apart from observing its colour is to press down on the under side of the crabs carapace, beneath the point. If the shell indents then the crab is only partly full, and if it does not, then it should be full of meat. Bucks around 1.2kg have been common catches in the channels surrounding Chambers and Channel Islands. Muddies have also been potted in the creeks, the Cod Hole and along the Maroochy Wetlands reach. Good numbers of sand crabs having been moving through the river on the daily tide as far up as the Bli Bli bridge, but unfortunately many are still undersize.
Being able to distinguish between male and female crabs is a very important way for anglers to play a role in sustainable fisheries. The mud and sand crabs though very different in appearance, both have the same protective cover on their under body. On male crabs this cover is in the shape of a long narrow, pointed flap. The females have a broad, more rounded flap that covers more than half of their underside. All female crabs must be returned to the water after capture. Male mud crabs must measure 15cm from spine to spine on the spines closest to the back swimmer legs. Male sand crabs have to measure 11.5cm from notch to notch on the notch closest to the spines. Each angler can keep 10 male mud crabs and unlimited male sand crabs, but it is important to stress the need to only take enough for your own immediate use and leave some there for the future.
All crab pots and dillies must have an I.D. tag attached to it with the owners surname and address printed. All traps that aren't attached to some sort of structure must have a light coloured float, no less than 15cm in dimension on the end of the rope.
Like fishing, night time is the best time to crab. Crabs are nocturnal and are therefore more active after dark. Moon phases and tide sizes will also affect crab numbers. I find crabbing on the big tides, either side of the full moon phase, or in the middle of bucketing down rain (due to the lack of other people around) to be the most productive.
Measuring your mudcrab across the carapace is tricky but essential to obey the rules.